Exploring Iceland– Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Home Bound

It was hard to believe that this morning would be the last one where I would wake up in Iceland. We got up early to make the 3-hour drive to the airport for our evening flight, with plans to circle the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the way. Stykkisholmur was breathtakingly quiet when we left the house. The sky was grey and misty, and the streets and homes were silent. At 7:30am on a weekday back home, there would be a chaos of hustle and activity. Here, even the birds were quiet today. I was going to seriously miss that.DSCN2358DSCN2359

We hit the road separately from our friends, whose flight was earlier. We began to circle the peninsula along a cliffy landscape with fog blanketing the mountains ahead of us. Part of me was disappointed that we had another so-so weather day for coastal driving, but part of me felt like it would make it (just a little) easier to leave behind.

Down the road just after 8am, we were already starving. It was surprisingly difficult to find any businesses open in the morning in Iceland, including mini-marts at gas stations. We rolled into a small town (I couldn’t tell you the name) and a friendly gas station attendant pointed us down the road to an open bakery after he warned us that he “only just turned the coffee pot on”, and had no food. The tiny bakery was a saving grace, and smelled like sweet strawberry-scented sugar when we walked inside. We got a few flaky, delicious pastries with bright pink frosting and some hot coffee for the drive. Road fuel = success.

We stopped at Djúpalónssandur beach, a black sand beach protected by skinny paths that wound through jutting lava formations. It felt hidden and other-worldly. When we got to the beach, we noticed large scattered pieces of copper-colored metal equipment along the length of the beach. A nearby plaque told us that the pieces belong to the British trawler (Epyne GY7) which crashed on the shore in March of 1948 during bad weather. 14 men aboard were lost and 5 were saved, and visitors are asked to not touch the remains out of respect for their preservation. Nearby, you can see a series of large “lifting stones” used to test sailors’ strength. The mistiness of the ocean was serene, and the smell of salt filled your nose as you watched the waves—calm and glassy. It was surreal to imagine the chaos of a storm that smashed a ship to pieces and left them there until today.DSCN2366DSCN2369DSCN2370

Down the road further, after passing a few abandoned looking dirt roads and lonely red-roofed houses, we got into the little town of Arnarstapi. Here, we were able to walk a path down to a series of sweeping cliffs that overlooked the crashing waves below while bird watchers stood nearby. An oval-shaped stone structure stood set back from the water, which made for an interesting photo. This was our last big stop before pressing on to the airport, and I knew it was a symbolic end to our trip. I tried to give my time standing by the cliffs a little extra attention and linger as long as I could. In that moment, I was still hidden away in Iceland’s perfect glory. I still felt freed by it.DSCN2380DSCN2375DSCN2374

As we moved onward, we drove through a several-mile long tunnel soon after Borgarnes (watch for speed cameras before and after!) we drew closer to Reykiavik. The roads became busier and houses were clustered closer together. We passed Reykiavik and the turnoff for Blue Lagoon (wishing there was time for a repeat) and got to the airport after getting hopelessly lost relying on our GPS for the first time all week. We returned the car, cringed as we surrendered payment for our hit-and-run parking lot dent (with only residual bitterness remaining) and went for an airport dinner. It turns out that both our flight and our friends’ flight were delayed several hours, so we lounged in one of the few open food places and chatted about our trip with a nearby couple from Canada. Finally, it was time to go, kicking and screaming.

From up in the air, I could see the sun almost setting in the sky for the first time since I’d left NYC. It was orange and pink and snowcaps still poked through the sky behind it. I knew home meant that I would see my first night sky in 9 days. I wasn’t ready.

Iceland was far more magical and intense than I expected. I craved the sweet complacency of the people there, the landscapes too beautiful to describe, and the vastness of space that was always mine to drift through. I’ll be back❤DSCN2387

Exploring Iceland—West to Stykkisholmur

Today it hit me that we only had one night left in Iceland. I had been in a glorious daze of experiencing beautiful things all around me from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep. I had barely turned on the TV or touched my phone, and that disconnect was heavenly and effortless. We started our day with a quick stop at the Botanical Gardens, a public park in Akureyri and also one of the northernmost botanical gardens in the world. We grabbed a croissant and coffee at the little café tucked inside. The morning air is one of my favorite things about Iceland. It’s so fresh and full, and when I take a deep breath I feel energized instead of overloaded, as I sometimes do back in NYC. I know it’s no secret that city air isn’t the freshest, but it does make it clearer to me why I often feel like crap when I take a walk outside in the summertime back home.DSCN2305

Since we didn’t have time to hit the West Fjords on this trip, we decided to end things in Stykkisholmur, which sits along the scenic Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Once again, the roads opened up the moment we left Akureyri and we rolled over huge hills and twisty pavement with a view for miles. Jutting mountains were so vast and high, yet the bases sat so close to the road. Tiny, lonely red-roofed houses sat nestled at the bottom. Our drive was over 4 hours long but felt easy as we went miles without seeing other cars.DSCN2315DSCN2327

Before getting into town, we stopped at a small mountain called Helgafell, which supposedly holds spiritual powers and is regarded by locals as a sacred place. The small mountain sits on a private farm, but the owners allow visitors to make the quick hike to the top. We parked down the winding road that leads to the mountain and quickly scaled the rocky path to the top (about 5-10 minutes). Legends say that if you make 3 wishes as you climb, that they will come true as long as you don’t speak or look back until you reach the top (we followed these instructions). At the top, there was a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the countryside and distant roads. The clouds were shimmery on the horizon as we explored the crumbled ruins of an old church built in the 10th century by Snorri Godi, a Christian convert who believed in the powers of the mountain. A woman named Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir lived in the adjoining Helgafell farm, and her grave sits at the mountain base. As we climbed back down towards our car, we noticed a small basket of hand-woven wool sweaters with price tags on them sitting on a table, and a corresponding mason jar labeled “For Money”. Trust is a beautiful sight to see.DSCN2336DSCN2339DSCN2335

We rolled into Stykkisholmur (one of the towns featured in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty) in the late afternoon, missing our host by a few minutes due to the fact that he was out watching a “BIG” soccer game that was on (you could hear people cheering inside their homes from the street). We stayed with our friends in a ground-level apartment with a separate entrance, so we settled in quickly and went to go walk downtown. Stykkisholmur was a cute, tiny town with only a few restaurants and a pretty harbor. We hiked up a large hill overlooking the water to snap a photo by a big red lighthouse perched on top.DSCN2349IMG_3264

Afterward, we tried to get a table at one of only 3-4 restaurants in town, “Sjavarpakkhusid”, and were faced with a 1-hour wait at the waterside. Knowing that every other spot was equally as popular (read: too small for the tourist influx), we suffered through the frigid, windy air by the water as we patiently waited for our table. It was like a beam of light to see the hostess finally call us inside. We ate our way through some incredible mussels and a creamy Skyr yogurt dessert with caramelized rhubarb (our Airbnb host mentioned in a note that this restaurant sells rhubarb grown in their backyard). The mussels were super fresh and delicious and the dessert was creamy, sweet and just slightly tangy—something unique that I will definitely miss.

That night, I went to bed staring out the window at the clouds. They were low in the sky and fast moving, almost the way they look when you’re flying in an airplane and they’re inches above you. It made it feel like we were in a secret town that was way up high. The birds chirp morning and night here—a consequence of seemingly eternal sunshine? I’d started to notice subtle differences though in the light during the daytime versus at night—the coloring, etc. It’s beautiful in its subtle shifts. The “evening sun” was subtle and warm beyond the fleeting clouds. I tried to hold onto those moments as long as possible, sleeping in a little town so far from home and feeling hidden. I try to hold that perfect complacency in my heart and guard it fiercely. Sometimes holding onto that feeling is so vital to existing that I’ll do all I can to keep it with me—even as I am forced to leave and face the world again, ready or not…

Goodnight Iceland.DSCN2351

Exploring Iceland—Whale Watching and Midnight Sun in Akureyri

DSCN2257I woke up so content with my little room on the farm. I ached to stay. The world felt so much easier to manage from a place like that. We strolled down to the host kitchen for breakfast, where the host’s cousin (Alma) met us again. She sat and chatted over breakfast—a nice spread of toast, hard-boiled eggs, ham, tomatoes, and cucumbers (common for Icelandic breakfast). It was shocking to share stories of our “normal lives” which lay in stark contrast to one another. Alma told us about how they always run into sheep on the road when they’re driving (similar to how we run into deer in the U.S.), but if they realize that the sheep in front of their car belong to their farm, they have to jump out and chase them back. She said that one time, she had to run 2 kilometers up a hill after a stubborn sheep who wouldn’t go the way she wanted.

“They’re pretty stupid sometimes…”

We told her how beautiful the country was, and she said that sometimes you can visit a mountain, leave for a week, and return to the same mountain and the scenery would have changed. It verified the feeling of constant landscape transformation that I’d been experiencing throughout our trip. To give some perspective, we told her that at home in NYC there are over 8 million people squished into a small piece of land, which rivals the 320,000 in all of Iceland. Her only response was “Whoa……”

People are so sweet and gentle here, it makes me wonder what our problem is back home. Too crowded? We can’t ever seem to truly relax. We’re always fighting against something—reacting impulsively and with intensity. This is especially relevant in our circus of a political climate right now. It makes going home feel almost crushing.

Despite how this sounds, I wasn’t feeling depressed per se. My eyes were just more open today. The contrast between here and home was becoming clearer. I tried to shake off that persistent and biting awareness, because there was so much beauty left to see while I was still here.

DSCN2292We made the easy drive down to Husavik, a small harbor town where we had signed up for a last-minute whale watching tour. We arrived and got suited up in bulky jumpsuit-style outfits meant to shield us from the windy waters. The boat took us out about an hour into the sea, and almost immediately we started seeing whale fins peeking out of the water. Our eyes darted back and forth in a furry, as whales quickly appeared on all sides of the ship. It was exciting and overwhelming to see their gaping fins push through the water and curved backs weave past one another. We sat out on the water with several other little boats and snapped photos until it was time to turn back.13442188_10100904769476759_4735212437050667944_n13450230_10100904764935859_2575023718032026265_n

Before getting to our destination of the night, we made one more “sight” stop at a waterfall called Godafoss, or “Waterfall of the Gods”. We hiked across slippery stones that crossed a stream in order to sit with our feet dangling by the edge of the falls—a hairy yet invigorating experience, to say the least.IMG_7068DSCN2295

That night, we stayed in Akureyri, lovingly known as the “Capital of the North” due to the fact that it’s Iceland’s second biggest city. It was weird to be back someplace with stop lights and an urban feel. We stayed in an adorable 1-bedroom apartment all to ourselves with a balcony on both sides, right in downtown. We went to dinner at Strikid for some buttery Arctic Char with roasted apples and a veal apple glace. The restaurant sat on the 5th floor and boasted some great views of the lake and mountains. Afterward, we had a cold beer at Akureyri Backpackers bar while overhearing travelers share stories. That night, we stood on the balcony for the summer solstice and watched the midnight sunshine turn the sky into a pink and orange back-splash.DSCN2297

Exploring Iceland—From Eastern Coastline to Northern Country

When I woke up in the morning, it was to the bracing sound of a rooster going “Cockadoodle-do!” I thought it was a ringtone I had accidentally set on my cellphone. But after the 3rd and 4th round, I realized that there must be an actual rooster somewhere within earshot of my window. Just when I thought I was used to the country, I was surprised again.

DSCN2182It was rainy again today, but the weather was expected to lift later on in our drive. We were headed to the tiny farm town of Kelduhverfi, about 40 minutes north of Ring Road and a little off the beaten path. We made a quick circle around town to see the cute rows of houses and tiny art shops before heading back up and over the mountain pass that separated our town from the main road. Today, it was blanketed in a thick coat of fog, and as soon as we gained elevation it only got thicker. I couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of the car over the entire length of the pass, and the faint headlights of oncoming cars were the only sign of life ahead. After that hairy experience, we emerged into brightness and wound down the scenic stretch of pavement on the other side.DSCN2191

Down the road, the area became more open and more rural. The “highway” stretched in front of us for miles with only a stray house here and there. We stopped at an old abandoned sheep hut at the entrance to a farm (with permission) and glanced inside for an eerie detour.DSCN2201DSCN2200

A ways further down Ring Road, the scenery began to change. A quiet fog moved in over the peaks of the mountains, like a misty oracle. The gravel landscape lay in stark contrast to the hues of pale green, copper, and grey around it. We stopped at a scenic turnoff at the top of a large hill, and the wind was so powerful that I could barely open my door. The view was raw, undisturbed and vast….so unbelievably vast. It felt like driving through one big secret.DSCN2206DSCN2207DSCN2211

As we got further north towards Myvatin, we took 862 north to Dettifoss, a huge waterfall that looked a bit like Niagra Falls. Soon after, we explored a crater and nearby lava fields that allowed you to hike through the crumbling rocks, surrounded by sulfur hot springs and geothermal ground activity.waterfallDSCN222413450253_10100904204818339_3227769418981882074_nDSCN2229

Nearby, we visited a lonely hot spring called hidden underground inside a rock cave—Grjotagja cave—down a rural road. The cave was once a popular secret swimming spot for locals, but in 1975 a volcano eruption in the area caused the water temperature to skyrocket, putting an end to the bathing nook. As of now, the water temperature has returned to normal, but the secret pool is on private property and bathing is currently illegal (though visiting is permitted). It’s also the spot where Jon Snow lost his virginity in Game of Thrones, though I have to admit that I’ve never seen a single episode. After scaling a steep rocky area, we got a peak of the sapphire colored hot spring tucked inside the dripping cove.13516691_10100904209114729_7903160220557352305_n

By now, it was nearly 3pm and we were starving. We stopped at the Cowshed Café, which is, in fact, inside a cowshed and on a working farm. After having some of the best fresh mozzarella cheese I’ve ever tasted and homemade beef and vegetable soup, we went onward to our last stop of the day, the Myvatin Natural Baths. It had been fun seeing the different landscapes around natural hot springs around the country, and this one was surrounded by lava rocks and rolling hills. We relaxed into the water, which was cooler than expected thanks to the biting wind outside. Regardless, it was a relaxing way to end the day, and natural “swimming pools” like this will be sorely missed back home.hot spring 2

After grabbing a fast food hotdog (“Pylsur”), we took a roundabout way up north in order to avoid some poorly maintained gravel roads that our little car couldn’t handle. We found the farm easily, just off Route 85 with a little blue sign to guide us to the correct driveway.

DSCN2245It sat all alone in a vast landscape, with a red tractor and playground equipment in the yard. We were greeted by a cheery teenager (the cousin of our host) with spotty English who showed us our Airbnb room on the second floor. Our room gazed out over the front of the house and quiet country road. Being on the farm was so peaceful that I didn’t want to go to sleep. I stayed up standing beside the upstairs window, staring out at the changing cloud formations and listening to the animals. It was more than relaxing—it was a profound feeling of peace in my bones. That feeling will haunt me.DSCN2248

Exploring Iceland—Rural East to Seydisfjordur

The next morning, we got up early excited to get started on our drive up the eastern side of Iceland, a supposedly more rural and less populated stretch of the country. We chatted briefly with our Airbnb co-guests about our travel routes, a group of young French boys who were ambitiously cooking both breakfast for now and lunch for later in the guest house kitchen (22 years old, at the oldest). Their English was minimal, and our French was worse, but we bid goodbye with a universal understanding that fellow travelers always seem to have when the words aren’t there.

To our disappointment, we encountered our first day of crappy weather. We had been chasing a small pocket of sunshine the entire trip, with rain in the forecast just behind and just ahead of us. Today, it finally caught up. We made a brief attempt at catching a glimpse of the harbor in Hofn but the fog and rain were so incessant that we gave up and hit the road.

For the first time since arriving, we didn’t have a whole lot “planned” for today. The drive up the Eastern coast was supposedly beautiful and hugged the jagged cliffs for the better part of the journey. It was nice to not worry about catching specific sights or turning off the road at every glance. Despite the weather, we quickly relaxed. The fog and misty rain made the scenery particularly interesting and somewhat mystical, especially as we approached the shoreline and vied for Route 94 and 96 instead of Ring Road, which is poorly maintained on the Eastern portion. Before we got there, we encountered our first stretch of unpaved highway and our little Toyota Yaris struggled like crazy up a gravely hill with my foot pumping the gas to its maximum. Tip for future road trippers—consider a 4WD.

DSCN2152DSCN2148Despite the gloomy skies, the coast was beautiful and the ocean looked vast beside the winding, ash-colored cliffs. After navigating past flocks of baby sheep (a common occurrence), we approached Route 93 which would lead from Eglisstadir to Seydisfjordur. We chose to stay in Seydisfjordur instead of the larger and more popular Eglisstadir because we thought it would be cuter and more unique.

DSCN2156DSCN2169The clouds suddenly began to clear and we saw our first glimmers of sunshine all day. Route 93 took us up a steep hill and over an unexpected mountain pass for a glaring and sudden change of scenery. The mountaintop was blanketed in snow and a quiet, peaceful fog drifted over the peaks, casting a serene glow over the snowcaps. The changes in landscape are one of my favorite parts about Iceland. I felt reinvigorated so frequently by my drive that nothing was ever stagnant.

 

DSCN2176As we rounded down the other side of the mountain, the fog cleared and we could see the teeny town nestled inside the valley between gaping mountain walls. The road snaked side to side as it neared the bottom, passing several cascading waterfalls that we stopped at to snap photos. As we neared town, waterfalls became more and more frequent, some of which fell from the very tops of the mountains and looked almost like ice from a distance. Seydisfjordur is a super quaint, artist-focused town of 650 residents, and we easily found our Airbnb without GPS. We stayed in the ground floor of a quiet home up on the hill, with a sweet host named Johanna.

“If you get lost later, just ask somebody how to find Johanna on the hill…most of them know me”

DSCN2180She graciously gave us dinner recommendations and reminded us that the town was fully walkable…there were only a few streets with businesses, surrounded by a lake. We strolled to dinner after snapping a photo of the cute blue church in town. Hotel Alden provided us with yet another amazing seafood dish of fluffy Cod with beurre blanc sauce and a tangy miniature lemon tart for dessert. We went off for one beer at a tiny local bar inside a wooden house across the street, where locals were watching soccer on an upstairs TV and chatting. We sipped away and relaxed into the creaky wooden chairs, watching the sleepy streets outside and listening to the Islandic sports channel with surprising focus.  We slept that night to the sounds of a waterfall, chirping birds, and wind in the trees. My natural nightly lullaby has become so incredibly calming that in this moment, I don’t ever want to go back to the city again…DSCN2177

Exploring Iceland—South Iceland to Hofn

I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds chirping and the family dog sleeping outside my window. It was so incredibly serene and secretive out there. We crept out of our room and went to grab some free breakfast in the host’s kitchen (toast, coffee and cereal). Baby sheep trotted inside a wooden pen in the front yard, and the home was still. We never even saw the other guests, so it felt like we were tucked away in our own space. We bid goodbye to one of the caretakers, who is ironically from Moscow, Russia like my father and once lived on the east side of NYC! Small world, seriously.

Driving out of the farm, you could see mountains in multiple directions in the distance and horses running nearby. The trees shimmered in the blustery wind, and fields of bright yellow wildflowers and purple lavender consumed the landscape. It was captivating and undisturbed.DSCN206213269273_10100903013655439_5239530193880027219_n

Today would be another long (good) day. The south shore is covered with beautiful sights and we wanted to take it all in. We stopped first at Seljalandsfoss, a cascading fall that you can walk behind via a rock path, surrounded by lush green fields. We navigated the slippery path and braved the misty spray to get a glimpse of the falls from behind. Katie ran in circles in the nearby field afterward in a spontaneous expression of freedom (captured on video) before we pressed onward.

Next, we took a glance at waterfall #2, Skogafoss (sensing a trend?), which was even bigger and our pictures in front of it made us look like ants. At this point, we were desperately low on gas and getting concerned. Gas stations are few and far between outside of the capital city. Because of this, we skipped a steep, cliffy drive that would have given us an overhead view of black sand beaches, and rolled into the town of Vik to fill up.

We realized that in Vik there is plenty of access to the beaches, so we pushed through the intense winds to put our shoes in the ash-colored sand. The wind in Iceland is like nothing else. You have to hold your car door when you open it so that it doesn’t whip open violently (on tall hills, it feels like the door might rip off).

Chilly, we grabbed a quick (crappy) fast food burger and continued onward. Our next stop was Skaftafell National Park, which was too huge to tackle properly, so we took a quick hike up to a (guess…) pretty waterfall. We had separated from our friends for the morning and managed to run into them in the park parking lot pre-hike, and continued the day as a group.DSCN2114

Our final stop of the day before getting to Hofn was the Jokulsarlon glacier, which seemed to emerge from nowhere and radically alter the landscape before us. This trend preceded the glacier and we had come to expect that every 45 minutes or so it would feel like we were somewhere completely new. Sharp chunks of blue ice floated through the chilly water, surrounded by flocks of squawking seagulls and black sand shores where we could sit and peacefully absorb it all.

Finally in Hofn by around 7pm, we were exhausted and starving. We had proudly found our Airbnb with only our paper map and no GPS, since my “free data in Iceland” proved to be essentially useless outside of Reykjavik. It was freeing to find places without a crutch, and I can say with the utmost confidence that a detailed paper map is more important in Iceland than a phone charger.

We got dinner at Kaffi Hornid, one of only a few places in the quiet little town. After downing some crispy Redfish with pumpkin puree and crisp locally brewed draft beer, we went to sleep with the sounds of rain falling outside our window.13417512_10100903013845059_4294901583640919248_n

Exploring Iceland—South to Hvolsvollur

The next morning, we bid goodbye to our awesome apartment and set off to tackle (part of) the Golden Circle—a series of intriguing natural sights like craters and geysers—and end in our Airbnb for the night just south of Hvolsvollur. We grabbed some Skyr yogurts for the road (Islandic creamy yogurt similar to Greek yogurt) and went off towards our first stop, the Geothermal Park in Hveragerdi, which isn’t technically part of the circle. After getting mildly lost on country roads behind the town and parking awkwardly next to somebody’s house, we found the park and wandered around the perimeter like confused children. It looked like there was nothing to see except a few small steam shoots and several stray cats wandering by the fence. After debating the subject like it was the most crucial decision of our lives, we decided to skip it and move on.

The road began to emerge very soon after. The convoluted city streets were far behind us, and the wide open road ahead. Wild horses and herds of sheep roamed freely over the sweeping hills and grassy fields. At one point, our friends and we both stopped our cars simultaneously on the side of the road to get out and pet some exceptionally friendly horses poking their heads over a tiny fence.DSCN1983

Beyond this, we made our way to stop #2, Kerid Crater. We hiked along gravel paths around the perimeter and gazed into the wide expanse of the crater and teal-colored water below. After slipping and falling about 5 times between our group of 4 on the excessively loose stones on the pathway (Katie tore a hole in her leggings and accidentally flung the Go-Pro down a hill—it survived) we chose to forgo taking the questionable-looking steps down to the crater floor.

Getting hungry, we stopped for lunch at a place Lily had found while perusing interesting stops in the area. Fridheimer Farm sat unassuming down a gravel road, and would never have been found if we didn’t know it was there. This fully functioning tomato farm offers a buffet tomato soup and fresh bread lunch–with several additional options–in a light-filled, tarp-encased section of the farm with rows of tomato plants and beehives alongside it. You could smell the tomatoes on the vine the second you walked inside. It was crisp and clean, like eating on a country hillside. It was probably the most unique place I’ve ever eaten. The soup, self-served from hot, steaming black kettles, was absolutely fantastic. It was sweet, light, and absurdly flavorful. Trays of hot, fresh baked bread with crispy cheese crust were served alongside, and tables got their own plate of julienned pickled cucumber and sour cream for the soup. We learned from our server that because tomatoes are 90% water, the super-fresh glacier water that runs through Iceland provides a perfect setting for farming delicious tomatoes.

Full and content, we moved onto Geysir, which left any ill-will about our geothermal park snafu behind us. Milky-blue hot springs trickled sulfur-scented water throughout the park floor, and the geyser shot dozens of feet into the air every 3-6 minutes as crowds of onlookers braved the misty spray to snap photos.DSCN201113535777_10100906184261519_675841066_n

The day had begun to feel long by now, but there were so many things we didn’t want to miss. Every stop felt completely different than the one before. Down the road, we rolled into Gullfoss (“foss” at the end of a word seems to always coordinate with waterfalls) and trekked alongside rocky pathways to view an epically large waterfall that cut through a gaping canyon. On an ultimate high after leaving the falls, we stopped dead in our tracks in the parking lot after seeing our rental car—with huge dent in the back right corner. Of all the cars in the hundred-car lot, somebody hit ours and drove away. My heart dropped. After a few expensive and frantic international calls to Hertz-rent-a-car, we were told that a police report wouldn’t help (what is 911 in Iceland anyway?) and that we would only be liable for damages up to the Collision Damage Waiver deductible (the details of which I won’t divulge for my own sanity). We took a breath, and decided that we could either allow it to ruin our trip, or we could accept it as a situation we couldn’t help.13530819_10100906184256529_1780862767_n13522520_10100906184266509_444518430_n

Instead of dwelling (or crying…much), we drove onwards to the Secret Lagoon in Fludir and drowned our sorrows away in steaming hot water with a rural mountain backdrop. Sometimes your problems are more easily melted away than you would expect.13493028_10100906184276489_315984121_n

At this point, it was much later than we had expected. By 9:30pm, we grabbed a quick gas station mini-mart dinner and went to find our Airbnb, a rural family farmhouse down a rocky gravel road. After driving a mile or two down the road and getting anxious about whether there was even a house on it, we rolled up to a small, quiet home and adjoining farm. Hesitant about the desolate setting of our accommodations, we slowly emerged from our car, greeted by a large and shaggy black dog. To our relief, the home’s caretaker came out to greet us in cheery glory, reassuring us that this was in fact that correct spot. Inside, we felt instantly at home in our little room inside the quiet family home. We ate like lightning and crashed like logs—the sounds of chirping birds and a light breeze in the fields singing us to sleep like a lullaby.